Sabbath School Lesson for June 13-19, 2020


Dealing with difficult passages in the Bible is easier when we do it…

  • knowingly (Sun.)
  • honestly (Mon.)
  • humbly (Tue.)
  • patiently (Wed.)
  • prayerfully (Thu.)


Being a book delivered in human language by fallible human beings with different personalities (living in ages long past with different worldviews from our modern era), we must expect there to be problems of understanding for some of the issues and ideas presented in its pages.

When these contradictions and difficulties arise, there are right and wrong ways to respond. Our lesson this week gives us some tools to help us over these hurdles of interpretation. We don’t want to misinterpret and misapply God’s message, lose faith in the rest of God’s word, or even give up on this important avenue of communication with God altogether.

There are ways to overcome our tendency to mishandle God’s word, when passages are encountered we don’t fully understand. Let’s not let these dilemmas weaken our faith in the rest of Scripture, but instead honestly and prayerfully continue to build our relationship with God so we will have a better chance of understanding these difficult passages in the future.

Memory Text: “And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation–as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” 2 Peter 3:15, 16 NKJV

Let’s beware of twisting the Scriptures, as Peter mentioned here. There are ways to keep our focus on God’s saving grace and our salvation. We must not let our misunderstanding from reading or hearing contradictions in the Bible keep us from knowing, loving, and serving our Lord in the fullest way possible.

Sunday: Possible Reasons for Apparent Contradictions

When you think about areas of learning, there is no one person capable of knowing all there is about medicine, astronomy, government, or any other field of study. We should, therefore, not expect ourselves to understand all there is to know about the teachings of the Bible.

There will always be things to discover in the spiritual realm, no matter how trained we are in the Scriptures. That’s what makes the Bible such a fascinating book, worthy of our lifelong study.

Here are three ways to deal with difficulties of understanding that might occur in our reading of the Bible:

  1. Recognize the divine origin of God’s word.
  2. Be humble and submissive when reading it.
  3. Remember that copyists and translators are capable of making errors.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

2 Timothy 2:14-15 and Titus 3:9

  • Why is it unprofitable to “strive”, or labor, over certain words in the Bible? What harm can it do to our own salvation, let alone our witness to others?

Monday: Deal With Difficulties Honestly and Carefully

Almost everyone who has engaged in Bible study has come across texts that puzzle and even alarm them. It’s easy to merely evade or ignore our questions, without honestly searching for answers.

Others may even be tempted to distort or manipulate the evidence to fit their preconceived ideas. Neither of these reactions is usually the best one, however. They not only cause us to deceive ourselves, but to possibly mislead others as well.

Instead, we might consider just admitting that we don’t know the answer at that time, and be willing to pray and search until a satisfactory solution is found. Even if it takes years to accomplish. Daniel waited thirteen years before the angel Gabriel gave him the interpretation of his vision in chapter 8.

Let’s be careful not to rush to conclusions based on limited knowledge or flimsy findings. Be honest in your response to biblical dilemmas, and God will increase your understanding when it’s most needed.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

1 Timothy 4:16, 1 Chroncles 29:17, and Proverbs 2:7

  • What is the most honest, or upright, way to deal with difficult passages in the Bible?

Tuesday: Deal With Difficulties Humbly

The expression in 1 Corinthians 13:12 about “seeing through a glass darkly” really describes the situation as we try to understand some passages in the Bible.

A mirror (or glass) gives a reflection of the real thing. And often, that is just not enough to truly grasp the essence of what we’re looking at. Anyone who has been to a foreign country or has found themselves involved in a natural disaster can testify that actually being there is nothing, compared to seeing the place or event on a screen of some kind (the modern version of a “glass darkly”).

A teachable spirit, therefore, can develop when we have a humble attitude about our limitations in understanding God’s word. All of us are dependent on something or someone for just about everything else in our lives. We should always approach Scripture with that same humility by recognizing our inadequacy in spiritual matters.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

2 Chronicles 7:14, James 4:10, and Zephaniah 3:12

  • What do each of these verses tell us about having a humble spirit?

Wednesday: Determination and Patience

The Bible has plenty of examples of people with both determination and patience.

  • Look at Noah, who preached for 120 years about the flood. He didn’t fully understand what was in store for the world, but he acted on God’s directions, just the same.
  • Then, Abraham, who didn’t know why God told him to leave his family and country to move somewhere else–he didn’t know where.
  • Even David must have questioned God’s anointing, as he encountered all those years of fleeing from King Saul.

As you can see, it sometimes pays to lay aside our difficulties of understanding something in the Bible, and just practice what God HAS revealed to us. This kind of patience must be called for in the final days. It says in Revelation 14:12, “Here is the PATIENCE of the saints…”

Yes, we must be patient in waiting for the Second Coming as well. We may not understand all that is going on the world, but God will reveal what we need to know, when we need to know it. For that, we can be thankful.

One more encouraging thought is that when we search diligently for answers (determination) or when we merely patiently wait for an answer (patience), the answer, when it comes, is much sweeter and precious to us than if we hadn’t used our determination and patience to achieve our goal.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

Galatians 6:9 and 1 Corinthians 15:58

  • What are we encouraged to do while waiting for answers from God?

Revelation 14:12 and James 5:7, 8

  • Why is it necessary to be patient in these latter days?
  • How do we “establish our hearts”?

Thursday: Deal With Difficulties Scripturally and Prayerfully

Using prayer when we have a difficulty with understanding something in the Bible seems like too simple at first. But, it really makes sense to ask the Holy Spirit to help, because it was the Holy Spirit who inspired the writer of that troubling passage in the first place.

Our first impulse after prayer is often to go to some extra-biblical resource, such as doing an online search or consulting our favorite Bible study guide or commentary. But, often these pools of information may only confuse us even more about what a text means.

Instead, it might prove wiser to allow the Bible itself to help us understand the Bible. Remain in its pages as long as you can. Use the cross references and concordance to find similar verses or passages, and see if your understanding isn’t better informed than looking to outside philosophy or science to influence your findings. This is what dealing with it scripturally means. Let the Bible speak for itself.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

Daniel 8:27, 9:20-23

  • How did Daniel deal with his lack of understanding the vision he was given in chapter 8?

Acts 17:10, 11

  • How did the Bereans handle new information preached to them by Paul?
  • How was their method more fair-minded, or noble?

Friday: What We Have Learned This Week

Jesus Christ, whom most of of us think of as both human and divine, is likened to the Word in the first chapter of John. When we have a correct understanding of how inspiration of that Word operates, we will also recognize both human and divine influences in the creation of the Scriptures.

The thoughts expressed in the Bible originated with God, but are delivered through fallible, human beings, so we might have a better chance of deciphering the divine messages.

Read, if you can, the first chapter of Ellen G. White’s Selected Messages, Book 1, pp. 15-23. If she could see inaccuracies and human imperfections in God’s word and still believe, then so can we. Maintaining our faith and close relationship with God is crucial in overcoming the many opportunities we may have for criticizing the apparent “errors” or difficult passages we are bound to come across in reading the Bible.

Hold tight to your faith in what you already know about God’s character and prayerfully, honestly, and patiently deal with your misgivings by giving them to God. He will work them out for you and increase your understanding in His own time and way.

Next Week’s Lesson: Living by the Word of God

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